Boy on a Dolphin (1957)

Synopsis:

After a poor sponge diver (Sophia Loren, Two Women) discovers an ancient statue, “a boy on a dolphin,” a dedicated museum curator (Alan Ladd, Shane) and an unscrupulous art dealer (Clifton Webb, Laura) vie for the priceless artifact.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Picturesque and diverting adaptation by Ivan Moffat (Giant) and Dwight Taylor (I Wake Up Screaming) of David Divine’s 1955 novel of the same name. Directed by Jean Negulesco (The Best of Everything), Boy on a Dolphin is an unpretentious adventure tale noteworthy for its photogenic locations, Greece’s gorgeous Saronic Islands.

Where Boy on a Dolphin is most interesting is in its presentation of a moral dilemma: what would you do if you find a rare historical artifact, sell it or donate it to a museum? The film takes a serious look at the ethics and morality of the art market.

In addition, I thought Boy on a Dolphin had a few similarities with the Indian Jones franchise and Disney’s popular National Treasure movies. Unlike the aftermentioned films, however, this is a character-driven movie. Although originally designed to showcase Fox’s then-new CinemaScope process, character judgment and motivation are the primary focus of the film.

That said, the visuals are the film’s main selling point. The Greek Islands, the underwater photography and Italian diva Sophia Loren are eye-candies. Cameraman Milton Krasner (Three Coins in the Fountain) does seem a little too obsessed with Loren’s physical attributes, but who can blame him?

Speaking of Loren, Boy on a Dolphin marked her big Hollywood debut. It’s a little too obvious that she is in the movie because of her enormous beauty. Loren must have sensed the crude objectification — in one famous scene, she comes out of the water ala Ursula Andress (in Dr. No) — because she started accepting more challenging roles in the next few years, effectively proving that she was much more than a sex symbol.

As I suggested before, Alan Ladd’s character, Dr. Jones, could have been Indy’s granddad (they have the same last name!). There is even mention of Jones fighting the Nazis over historical artifacts! Anyhow, I really liked Ladd here — he plays Jones as a dedicated, almost obsessive archaeologist… hmm… another coincidence? Seriously, my only issue with Ladd is that he has no chemistry with Loren — he is aloof while she is spirited, a combination that simply doesn’t work.

Clifton Webb came close to stealing the show as an unscrupulous “raider” who buys/sells stolen artifacts on the black market. Webb’s Victor Parmalee is the kind of bad guy “you love to hate” — I was thinking, “Webb could have played a great James Bond villain!” The cast also includes Spanish heartthrob Jorge Mistral as Loren’s boyfriend and Laurence Naismith (Jason and the Argonauts) as a seedy physician.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Aside from the obvious lack of chemistry between its stars, Boy on a Dolphin is a fun movie with an engaging storyline and great color cinematography. Fans of films like King Solomon’s Mines (1950), The Deep (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Romancing the Stone (1984), etc., will want to check out this colorful and entertaining adventure movie. Color, 111 minutes, Not Rated.

P.S. This is my contribution to The Man Who Would Be Shane: The Alan Ladd Blogathon, hosted by Pale Writer.

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21 responses to “Boy on a Dolphin (1957)

  1. Pingback: The Man Who Would Be Shane has come to town – Pale Writer·

  2. I really enjoyed reading this, Eric. I agree that this film is a visual feast, and that Loren could have been less objectified. Although she and Alan’s chemistry isn’t explosive as you say, I think they do pretty well. Unfortunately this film was very traumatic as Loren had to walk I’d stand in a ditch during their scenes together, humiliating him quite badly. He and Loren did like each other though, which is obvious in photos of them during promotional events.
    Thanks so much for partaking in my Blogathon 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the info. I was wondering about the height discrepancy. Loren is tall and I knew that Ladd was short (well, not really, I’m 5’6″ and I don’t consider myself short… please, don’t destroy my fantasy! 😉 ).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Clifton Webb steals movies in his sleep!

    An honest review of a movie that bored me as a teen, but it seems to have enough to interest me at this time.

    – Caftan Woman

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I always liked the movie until I saw a still of
    Sophia walking in the ditch so Ladd, walking ground level didn’t look so short. The I kept looking at what other tricks was used to hide their height difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear Eric,

    This sounds like a really interesting film! You wrote a fascinating review of it. I can just picture the conflict against the Greek setting.Your fan theory about Alan Ladd’s character being Indiana Jones’s grandfather is very interesting and very amusing!

    I just nominated you for the Blogger Recognition Award: https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/09/04/the-blogger-recognition-award-and-the-lucy-m-montgomery-blogging-award/. In the article, I invited you and the other nominees to join our blogathon, The Phantom of the Opera Blogathon: https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/08/14/its-here-the-phantom-of-the-opera-blogathon/. I hope you will be able to join!

    Yours Hopefully,

    Tiffany Brannan

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’d always thought this was literally about a boy on a dolphin, but I like the sound of this version more. The ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ connections have me wanting to check this out…and if you’ve ever seen the opening credits of the ’70s movie clip show ‘That’s Hollywood’, then you’ve already been introduced to the ‘Sophia coming out of the water’ moment!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well I never knew Alan Ladd and Sophia Loren made a film together. Saying that looking through her films I never knew she did a film with John Wayne either. Something compels me to want to see Miss Loren coming out the sea in her swimsuit! I just can’t put my finger on why!!!! 🙂 The film also sounds fun btw. Would of made a good Sunday matinee film today. Will keep an eye out for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. So, I always thought this movie sounded kind of lame, but you’ve made it sound really interesting, so I’m going to give it a try sometime instead of avoiding it!

    Especially with the Indiana Jones connection, since he got his look and last name from Alan Ladd’s character David Jones in China.

    Liked by 1 person

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